A member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who was wounded in a 2012 encounter with the Philippine Army in Virac and later captured has been sentenced to imprisonment for the crime of rebellion.
The Regional Trial Court sentenced Orlan “Ka Junie” Nuquiao Nogas, a native of Cawayan, Masbate, to imprisonment ranging from eight years and one day as minimum to 14 years, eight months and one day as maximum.
“The totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, uncontroverted by the accused who opted not to testify on his behalf, and the doctrinal rulings of the Supreme Court proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime of rebellion…xxx,” RTC Branch 42 Acting Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras said in her 15-page decision rendered last March 3.
Information filed before the Court as well as accounts of the encounter state that on Dec. 1, 2012, the 83rd Infantry Battalion received information from a concerned citizen that “local communist terrorists” led by a certain Jimboy “Ka Jason/Ka Hogan” Lucero, also known as Emerson Capistrano, was conducting extortion activity in the vicinity of Calatagan-Tibang. Elements of the 91st Division Reconnaissance Company led by 1Lt. Evar Louie Magamay were sent to the area to conduct combat operations in the mountainous area just past the Cauayan watershed and reachable only by a two-hour hike.
At 1:30 P.M., the team maneuvered in a skirmish position near an area where they had heard several persons enjoying each other and saw persons armed with long firearms. The Army scout was seen by one of the rebels and a 10-minute firefight ensued with the 15 guerillas in which two were killed outright.
Sixteen-year old Ronald “Ka Brian” Satairapan was rendered unrecognizable by gunshot in the face while Lucero’s wife, Liezel “Ka Arlene/Ching” Isorena of Porot, Pandan, was shot in the chest. The badly decomposed body of fellow Masbateño, whom Nogas knew only as Lito, was recovered by pursuing Army soldiers two days later.
The encounter also led to the recovery of an M653 Baby Armalite, two M16 rifles, an M14 rifle, three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with detonating cord, 40 blasting caps, seven cellphones, M16 ammo, three jungle packs, six ponchos, two hammocks, five blankets, 20 batteries, food and personal items.
On Dec. 15, 2012, a civilian informant told the Army that a wounded rebel was hiding in the mountains of Dugui Too, about 18 kilometers from the town proper. Later that day, government troops captured Nogas at an abaca plantation just above a hut (tugod) owned by barangay captain Leo Teleb where the wounded rebel had sought shelter. Nogas was nursing bullet wounds on his right hand and left ankle, and was treated initially by a medic before being brought to a hospital.
During the trial of the case, the defense presented only one witness, Nogas’ mother
Magdalena, who told the
Court that sometime in September 2012, Orlan asked permission from her to go
with his friends to look for a job. She said there was no communication between
them as she had no cellphone. It was in December 2012 that they learned that he
was already in jail in Virac. When she and her husband visited their son in
detention, he told them he was engaged in small-scale mining in Catanduanes
before he was charged with rebellion.
Instead of presenting the accused to testify, his counsel argued that the prosecution’s evidence did not prove beyond doubt the elements of the crime and that the accused was a CPP/NDF/NPA member. The counsel also questioned the legality of the warrantless arrest made 14 days after the “alleged encounter”, with the accused not doing any crime and not in possession of any firearms or subversive materials.
In finding no merit in the contention of the accused, Judge Contreras expressed surprise that the legality of the arrest was being questioned when this was never brought out from the time Nogas was arraigned until the presentation of evidence. She cited Supreme Court rulings stating the accused is estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he failed to raise such defense before arraignment.
The Court noted that Nogas admitted to the doctor treating him that he sustained his wounds from the encounter with the military. It likewise quoted SC rulings on the communist rebellion and subversion as continuing offense.
Nogas’ capture in a hut 14 days after the encounter, it stressed, is akin to that of an accused guerilla who the Supreme Court said “did not cease to be or became less of a subversive, for purposes of arrest, simply because he was, at the time of arrest,” confined in a hospital.
Tribune files show that Nogas was recruited in
Masbate by a certain Ka Pinoy and was met by his unit
commander at San Andres port. The fourth son of six children in the Nogas
family, he was with the Lucero group operating in Virac, San Andres, San Miguel
and Bato when they had an initial encounter with government troops in Dugui Too
on Nov. 25, after which their group of eight guerillas hiked to the Calatagan
Tibang area. Nogas was scheduled to return home for Christmas but the Dec. 1,
2012 Cauayan clash changed his plans. Eight other alleged NPA rebels are said
to be facing rebellion cases in court.